Religious Census in Britain
A rather significant event in the Victorian era. It was the only attempt to assess the state of the Christian faith during the period. It was tabulated by Horace Mann and was published in 1854. It key aim was described at the time as being discovering:
"How far the means of Religious Instruction provided in Great Britain during the last fifty years have kept pace with the population during the same period, and to what extent these means are adequate to meet the spiritual wants of the increased population of 1851."
Many such as Samuel Wilberforce
) felt the information
would be inaccurate and hence urged church
es not to respond. Mann estimated 90% of the Anglican Clergy
filled in the returns themselves. One should note that the returns from Scotland
were not so useful since far more failed to respond. There was huge controversy when the figures
were published. They showed that Dissenters
(people of Protestant
churches other than the Anglican Church) provided half of the church accomodation
. Further it showed that the best attended Dissenter service
s had more worshipper
s than the best attended Anglican
ones. This was a major shock to many and although many had suspected such it caused massive debate
There were many problems with the census as it was taken on a single day and do those who attended once a month or week were not accounted for properly. So Mann doubled the figures for Anglicans and Roman Catholics and increased non-conformists by 2/3s. Yes it's not the most accurate way of doing things! Many things were revealed. The success of the Anglican Church in Lancashire for post 1831. Attendence in the countryside was higher than in towns. It revealed that in Scotland the Free Church which had been formed as a splinter group in 1843 had twice as many worshippers in their evening service than had the Established Church.
It must be apparent that a sadly formidable portion of the English people are habitual neglecters of the public ordinances of religion".
It showed that Industrialisation
were important factors which affected the Christian faith
and which had not yet been properly addressed. Hence as a result missionary
work within Britain
was expanded although it had already been on the increase. It was also profoundly important in showing the failure
of the Anglican faith
to recover its position that it had lost in the 18th century
. That is it being the dominant Church
that had the vast majority of the country
within its fold.